What to Expect in Paris Hotels: 16 Essential Tips

From Room Size to Tipping, Here's Everything You Need to Know

Are you wondering what to expect in your Paris hotel? 

If this will be your first visit to the City of Light, our 16 tips about Paris hotels will tell you everything you need to know about choosing a hotel, what to expect once you arrive, and how to get the most from your Paris hotel experience.

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With around 1,500 officially recognized hotels in the city, plus other options such as what the French call "aparthotels" (a sort of hybrid between apartments and hotels) and hostels, you'll have a lot of choice in accommodations. 

Our tips will help you understand how the French star rating system works, why your guestroom may seem small, when you might want to consider an aparthotel, everything you need to know about tipping in Paris hotels, how far in advance to make reservations, where to find last minute bargain rates - and lots more!

1.  What the Stars Can - And Can't - Tell You 

All officially registered Paris hotels throughout Paris are awarded 1 to 5 stars, based on factors such as guestroom size, the presence (or not) of air conditioning and elevators, and the services they provide.  A few exceptional 5-star hotels get a special Palace designation.

Each star level has specific minimum requirements that hotels must meet.  For example, all 4-star hotels must have elevators. 

But many hotels far exceed the minimum requirements at each level.  Does the lovely boutique 3-star hotel you're considering have an elevator?  The number of stars doesn't tell you that!

More about the French hotel star rating system


2.  Most Paris Hotel Rooms Are Small

Yes, your Paris hotel room will probably be small - unless you are booking a 5-star or Palace hotel.

Many - perhaps most - centrally-located Paris hotels occupy elegant townhouses and mansions dating back to the 17th or 18th century and not designed to accommodate large rooms.

On the upside, the hotels have usually been beautifully renovated, often with luxurious private bathrooms almost as large as the guestrooms, even in many 3-star hotels.

Survival tip:  Pack light, and bring only 1 small-to-medium size suitcase.


3.  Paris Hotel Elevators Are Even Smaller

Unless you're staying in a 4- or 5-star hotel, expect the elevator in your Paris hotel to be tiny, just large enough to fit 1-2 people and a suitcase or two. 

And remember, most 1-star, many 2-star, and even a few 3-star hotels don't have elevators, nor will they necessarily have someone to help you with your luggage - so unless you don't mind carrying your bags up several flights of stairs, be sure to verify that an elevator or lift is available when you book.


4.  Air Conditioning - Don't Assume Your Hotel Will Have It

Most, but not all, 3-star Paris hotels have air conditioning, even though it is required only for 4-star and 5-star properties. 

Paris summers can get hot - sometimes very hot - and steamy, so if you are traveling during this period, you will probably want to book a hotel with a/c.

Until relatively recently, most hotels in Paris did not offer air conditioning, which is actually a plus:  most hotel a/c systems are relatively


new, quiet, and comfortable, with individual controls in each guestroom. 

If you're used to the relatively poor a/c systems in many American hotels, even those at the upper end of the luxury spectrum, get ready to feel pleasantly surprised in Paris.


5.  Paris Aparthotels

A Paris aparthotel gives you the best of both worlds - the spaciousness and convenience of a furnished apartment complete with kitchen combined with (usually) some of the professional services of a hotel.  

Services vary from just weekly cleaning to daily breakfast buffets and and a concierge.   Accommodations range from plain and simple - think college dorm room - to luxury.

Depending on the aparthotel's location, size, and level of service, daily rates will usually be similar or maybe somewhat less than you'd pay for a hotel room - but you usually get significantly more space.

Take a look at Paris aparthotels


6.  Smoking in Paris Hotels

You can't. 

By law, all Paris hotels are non-smoking.  


7.  Best Areas for Paris Hotels

If you want to be close to major tourist attractions, check out hotels in these arrondissements: 

1st Arrondissement - Louvre, Palais Royal, Jardin des Tuileries, Sainte-Chapelle, Musée de l'Orangerie - Find 1st Arrondissement hotels

3rd Arrondissement - Picasso Museum, Musée des Arts et Métiers, Jewish Art and History Museum, Musée Carnavalet

4th Arrondissement - Lower Marais (trendy shops and restaurants), Beaubourg Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame, Île de la Cité

5th Arrondissement - Latin Quarter, Panthéon, Cluny Museum, Botanical Garden and Paris Zoo

6th Arrondissement - Luxembourg Gardens, Saint-Germain-des-Près neighborhood, many upscale art galleries, restaurants, boutiques

7th Arrondissement - Eiffel Tower, Branly Museum, Invalides, Champ des Mars

8th Arrondissement - Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Golden Triangle designer boutiques

9th Arrondissement - Opéra Garnier (Paris Opera), Galeries Lafayette, other large department stores

But with 12 more arrondissements, you'll find plenty more options.  Find out more


8.  Hotels Outside of Paris - A Good Way to Save Money?

No, not usually.  What you'll save in money you'll spend in time and transportation costs getting to central Paris where most attractions are located.  Most of the big (cheaper) hotels outside of the city limits are located along the charmless Périphérique, the multilane highway circling the city, so you would also not have access to many dining options.

But . . . take a look at these exceptions:

  • La Defense - Business district to the west of metropolitan Paris.  This area offers lots of shopping and dining, its own Grande Arche lined up with Arc de Triomphe, and interesting sculptures along its Esplanade, where a huge Christmas market sets up every December.  Plus, you can hop on Line 1 of the Métro and reach the Louvre in about 10 minutes.
  • Disneyland Paris - Sure, you can visit in a day - but why not thrill your kids by staying longer?
  • Versailles - Another place that's almost too wonderful to rush through in a day, especially when there are lovely hotels and appealing bistros and brasseries nearby.
  • Porte de Versailles - And other areas with hotels where the Metro extends past the Périphérique. 

9.  How to Verify a Hotel's Location in Paris

Look at the postal code in the address. 

If the hotel is in Paris, the first 3 digits will be 750.  The last 2 digits will be a number between 01 and 20, and correspond to the arrondissement number.

For example, 75003 is in the 3rd Arrondissement, which includes the Upper Marais neighborhood.

Another example:  94300 is NOT in Paris.

Why is this important to know?  If you're looking for hotels online,  you may see "Paris" hotels that are actually outside of the city.

So always make sure you verify the address!


10.  The Difference Between a Relais and a Hotel

There is no difference.

Relais literally means stopover, and is sometimes used to mean a country inn or retreat.  

Not many hotels in Paris use Relais in their name rather than Hôtel - but those that do tend to be upscale, with at least 4 stars.


11.  Do Paris Hotel Rates Include Breakfast?

Maybe, maybe not. 

Although hotel rates do not normally include breakfast, some hotels may include it as a special offer - check when you make reservations. 

By law, all French hotels with star ratings must serve breakfast onsite.  The cost can be as low as 5-6 Euros in a simple 1-star hotel offering juice, hot beverages, and pastries, or as high as 35-38 Euros at 5-star hotels serving lavish spreads. 

You can almost aways save money by heading to a nearby café or bakery for coffee and a croissant, especially if you carry it out - although hotels do not like to see you bring in food that might make crumbs in your room, so find a park bench where you can enjoy your breakfast.


12.  Are Internet-Only Non-Refundable Rates a Good Deal?

Maybe.  The answer depends on 2 factors:

1)  Are you absolutely sure you won't change your plans?  Most non-refundable rates must be made when you book your room.  If you cancel, you forfeit your payment.

2)  How big a discount is the hotel offering you?  Non-refundable rates typically are about 10% less than the refundable rate - but sometimes discounts go as high as 25%.  So if you're sure of your plans, you can potentially save a LOT of money!


13.  What Kinds of Amenities Do Paris Hotels Provide?

That depends entirely on the hotel. 

Although the star rating system dictates the minimum number and type of amenities at each star level, most hotels provide more - sometimes a lot more - for competitive reasons. 

 Most 3-star hotels, for example, provide hair driers, upscale toiletries brands, private safes, and in-room coffee, tea makers, and mini-fridges.  Many 4-star hotels provide robes and slippers, umbrellas, designer label toiletries, high-end electronics, and perhaps a bottle of wine and chocolates.


14.  How Much Should I Tip in a Paris Hotel?

Opinions and practices vary.  Tipping is generally not necessary or expected in Paris hotels.

However - if someone brings your bags to your room for you in a Paris hotel with less than 5 stars, a tip of 1 Euro/bag will be appreciated; at 5-star hotels, valet services are built into the rather hefty room rates (and are one of the requirements for getting 5 stars). 

If you stay in a hotel for more than 2-3 nights, you may want to leave a tip of 1-2 Euros/night for the housekeeping staff.  The time-honored custom is to put the tip on the bed pillow along with a note saying "Merci!"

If the concierge goes out of his/her way to make hard-to-get reservations for you, a tip of 5-10 Euros or more, depending on the number of reservations, is appropriate.

Tipping for room service isn't usually necessary or expected if the hotel prepared the food being delivered to you.  If the person delivering it to you ran down the street to your favorite restaurant to pick it up, then by all means give a tip of 5-10 Euros unless the hotel adds a service or delivery charge.


15.  How Far in Advance Should I Make Hotel Reservations?

With around 30 million visitors each year, competition for reservations can be fierce during the busiest months (typically April through October), and the most popular hotels book up far in advance.  Remember, many Parisian hotels are tiny - less than 30 guestrooms.  

Book your hotel as soon as you know your dates.  If you want to stay in a great hotel in a popular area, such as the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th Arrondissements, keep in mind that many travellers to Paris book 4-6 months in advance or even earlier.  You should too - if you want to get your first choice.


16.  Last Minute Deals

If you've waited until the last possible minute to make reservations, why not get a great deal and last-minute booking discounts? 

To find out what's available, find out how to get last-minute deals.

You'll be amazed by how much you can save!


Fun Things to Do & See in Paris


Want to Save on Your Paris Hotel?

Check our tips on how to find discounts, deals, and bargains for Paris hotels.  Whether you're looking for cheap accommodations or want to pay less for luxury, we'll show you How to Save on Hotels in Paris. 

TripAdvisor

See Trip Advisor's Best Value Deals to save BIG on your Paris hotel

Find best value deals on Paris Hotels from Tripadvisor

Priceline

Find the lowest prices on Paris Hotels with Priceline's Express Deals

Use Priceline's Express Deals to find great Paris hotel values

Booking.com

Need last minute reservations?  Check out Booking.com's Great Value Today Deals

Find Paris Hotel deals with Booking.com

Find more tips for saving on Paris hotels